Every year I examine my grocery spending and try to get some insights into how I spent my grocery budget and how healthy my diet was.
The grocery budget at our place provides for two adults. We eat a plant-based diet at home and don’t buy or cook meat. We both eat breakfast at home every day and take lunches to work on weekdays. We eat out often. We travel about 3 weeks a year and use the vacation budget for those meals. We sometimes have extended family over for a meal, or I contribute food to potlucks and work events.
This year we continued doing weekly meal plans and attempted to shop once a week. This was a failure. The ledger doesn’t lie: we somehow went grocery shopping 100 times and made 167 purchases! (that is, we often went to several stores in one day).
Here’s a breakdown of the numbers for 2017:
- Spent $6457 for the year, including groceries (food to make meals), snacks, cleaning supplies, paper goods and personal care items – but not including pet supplies for our 2 cats
- That is $538/month or $124/week ($461/month or $106/week for food categories only)
- $538 Canadian is equivalent to $554 AUS / $430 US / € 360 / £317
- Spending was $15/month more than last year, most of which was for personal care items. In addition to everyday things like soap and toothpaste, I bought 5 unscented products required for use at the gym; 8 containers of moisturizers due to swimming twice a week plus our severe climate; 3 facial moisturizers, and only one container of sunscreen which was enough for the whole summer!
- The cost of crumpets went up so much in recent years that Rom no longer buys them!
- We ate 61 loaves of bread. Superstore and its suppliers recently owned up to price-fixing bread. I have no doubt that Sobeys and other chains were involved since they carry the same brands.
- I used to add fruit to salads but now I put a lot more vegetables in them, so my biggest gains this year were in peppers, zucchini, carrots and radishes. We still bought 68 kg of apples, 26 kg of bananas, 21 kg of oranges and 20 kg of grapes. I am all stereotypes when it comes to buying avocados every other week to make avocado toast – I love it! I would have guessed we bought a frozen pizza once a week but it was actually every 2 weeks. I use 2 litres of milk a week for coffee and cereal while Rom uses 4 litres a week of soy milk. We still buy yogurt, cheese and eggs.
- You will be amused to know that I consumed 130 protein bars and 111 Freezies, and we shared 130 oat cakes – 65 each?
- We were so well-stocked on condiments and spreads that we only needed peanut butter, jam and salad dressings.
Meals and snacks out of the house haven’t been accounted for yet. We had 41 meals out this year at an average of $44 per meal for the two of us. Of the 41 meals, we had 12 noteworthy dinners for $50-100; the rest were lunches or more workmanlike fare. We also made 37 trips to coffee shops – about once a month to sit down with a latte and a date square; the rest for just a coffee or tea. On the plus side, that is a lot of togetherness and conversation for Rom and me!
I am trying to figure out a balance of ethical and convenient shopping, but I haven’t fared well. The grocery budget mostly goes to 4 stores, all of whom have ethical and price challenges:
- Spend 51% of our grocery budget here
- 2 km from home
- Large, full-service supermarket
- Chain is locally owned (headquarters in Nova Scotia)
- Prices are high except sale items and store-brand
- Receive 4% cash back on credit card ($118 this year)
- Receive Air Miles cash ($40 this year)
- Can use Fast Fuel gas station coupons ($30 this year)
- Bad reputation for following African Canadians around the store ☹
- But hires the most African Canadians and has scholarships for student workers
- Spend 20% of our grocery budget here
- 15 km from home
- Self-service warehouse
- Good prices for buying large amounts of a limited range of products/brands
- Annual membership fee of $63
- Don’t spend enough to qualify for their cash-back program
- No wine at Canadian Costco
- Known as an LGBTQ friendly employer, provides good employee benefits and student scholarships
- Spend 19% of our grocery budget here
- 15 km from home
- Prices are low for “price-sensitive items” and average for the rest
- Receive 1% cash back on credit card
- Can buy household items at same store when needed
- Known for low wages, bad work schedules and lack of employee benefits
- Spend 5% of our grocery budget here
- 4 km from home
- Locally owned small business
- Best prices for fresh fruit and vegetables
- Doesn’t take credit cards
- Knew an employee who worked 10-hour shifts with minimal breaks, was paid in cash, and was not always paid on time
None of the above stores have unionized employees.
The remaining 5% of our grocery budget is split among 10 different stores that I only visit occasionally, including Superstore, Bulk Barn, Giant Tiger, Dollarama, and the Farmers’ Market.
I will note that for the things I can buy at Costco, such as nuts and raisins, the prices are far better than buying the same amount at Bulk Barn. Prices are lower at Walmart than Sobeys, but it’s further away and there are fewer rewards programs. Unfortunately, I find our Farmers Market is a hipster mecca with very high prices, and lots of treats (like baked goods, jam, flowers and jewellery). I enjoy it – but not for grocery shopping!
What factors do you consider when deciding where to do your food shopping? Given my information – where would you shop if you were me?
Really, buying food and cooking and eating are very charged topics!
— with a nod to the Asian Pear’s post—